A BIG baseball book

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A little while back, a representative of the publishers of the third edition of Paul Dickson's Baseball Dictionary wrote to offer me a free copy, in the hope that I would review the book on Language Log. I replied that I was an idiot about baseball — yes, I know, this totally undercuts any claim I might have to being a real American man, but I coped with that long ago — and so was not the person they wanted to take on this task.

But I did buy the book, because I knew that Dickson's dictionary was a work of serious lexicographic scholarship (with careful citations and thoughtful definitions, the sort of thing that could be accommodated in a revision of the OED). Many specialized dictionaries are not like this, and for good reason: in many domains, the evidence for usages in written texts is very hard to come by, and very spotty.

So reports on gay usages are not very reliable, and often not documented. Reports on black usages are better, but not by a whole lot. And so on.

But baseball is different. The sports pages of newspaper (many available on-line only recently) are replete with inside baseball lingo, though much of it needs interpretation in context. Dickson has made good use of these resources, with the result that his dictionary has grown from 5,000 entries in the first edition (1989) to 7,000 in the second (1999) and to 10,000 in this one (2009).

The current edition turned out to be a much bigger volume than I'd anticipated, a real doorstop of a book, almost a thousand pages. Whether its content gets reviewed here on Language Log or not, I'm sure it will catch attention elsewhere.

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